“…for nothing contributes so much to tranquillise [sic] the mind as a steady purpose–a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.”
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
Considering how much of an avid reader I am and that my degree encompasses a Literature focus, it’s a little staggering how few of the ‘Classics’ I’ve actually read. I feel that my professors were attempting to sway from the usual canon, developing their curriculum on books that deviated from the usual rhetoric. This has allowed me to discover the classics in my own right, which sometimes makes me feel that I enjoy and appreciate them more, but I’m fairly certain that, if I had covered Mary Shelley’s ubiquitous novel Frankenstein in school, I’d have fallen in love with it as fervently then as when I picked it up recently. This book has easily skyrocketed toward the top of my favorites list, likely to become one of the books I read annually, and Mary Shelley became the second person on my list of People I’d Go Back in Time to Have Sex With (Salvador Dali is the first).
The tale of Dr. Frankenstein and his Monster is so incredibly saturated into our culture, yet it’s so incredibly different from Shelley’s true vision, though the theme of playing God and creating life with your very own fingertips resonates through many different versions. The most incredible thing about Shelley’s original tale is the monster itself, at first a dumb ox of a chimera, whose desire to be more than just an outsider allows him to do incredible things. It is a tale rife with so much emotion, the fear of what we create, the bitter hurt that comes with betrayal, the unceasing need for revenge and closure. In addition to the fact that the tale is engaging and taps deep into various bits of the human psyche, it is also a quintessentially Victorian novel, a literary time period that never ceases to make me go weak in the knees when I see so many of its variants displayed: high minded ideals clash with the progress of science, there are great sweeping descriptions of the awesome power of nature, and it even taps into the Victorian fascination with Arctic travel.
Right from page one, I knew this was going to be a book I would fall in love with. Right from page one, I knew that the original tale would do a swift job of showing just how much the original tale has been bastardized and how incredible a character Frankenstein’s monster truly is. Right from page one, I knew I would want to dig up a bunch of old Frankenstein movies and compare the general messages of playing god and the fear and rejection that comes with being an outsider (my favorite Frankenstein film, for the record, is Mel Brook’s ingenious Young Frankenstein, which is possibly the most fitting adaptation of the book I’ve seen thus far).
Just writing this has made me want to pick it up and start reading it again. A wonderful piece of Victorian fiction that, even today, resonates so beautifully with the human condition.
Books read: 011/100.